The National League West has been shaken up a bit this week, but the San Francisco Giants remain at the top with room to spare. They are absolutely rolling and while there’s a lot of season left, they’re not going to be easy to catch.
Breaking things down a little deeper, what do things look like for the Giants and the rest of the division rivals?
Note: All records are current through the games on Thursday, June 5.
First Place: San Francisco Giants
- Record: 39-21 (8.5 games up)
- Last 10: 7-3
- Upcoming: 3 vs. New York Mets, 4 vs. Washington, 3 vs. Colorado
- It really boils down to this: If the Giants play .500 ball for the rest of the season, they win 90 games. Since 2010, no team has won the NL West with more than 94 wins (2010 Giants/2013 Dodgers — 92; 2011 Diamondbacks/2012 Giants — 94). If that trend continues, the Giants can afford some significant regression from the current pace and still win the division title, probably pretty easily.
- 1-6, the Giants offense is very strong. Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Morse, and even Gregor Blanco are all going very well right now. That may not last forever but if they keep it going for even a little bit longer, they’re likely to hold or expand their current division lead, allowing plenty of breathing room for the slumps that will happen.
- Another winning road trip against playoff teams from 2013, taking road series from both the Cardinals and Reds. Two of the three wins against the Cardinals came without Posey in the lineup. The trailing teams had to be looking at this trip as a chance to gain ground, and that did not happen. Actually, the Giants got more separation.
- With one exception (which we’ll get to), the pitching is going strong. Madison Bumgarner is pitching like an ace, the return of Matt Cain is imminent, Tim Hudson is still dominating, and Ryan Vogelsong is showing a lot of the toughness that we saw in 2011 and 2012.
- If Tim Lincecum had taken a step forward in recent outings, his game vs. Cincinnati was two steps back. He’s plenty capable of having a good game but generally speaking, the Giants need to break out the bats when he’s on the hill.
- There’s nothing that particularly indicates that a slump is coming, but the Giants are on pace to win 105-106 games right now. It’s just not likely that that will happen and if it doesn’t, a slump of some sort is coming.
Second Place: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Record: 31-30 (8.5 games back)
- Last 10: 4-6
- Upcoming: 3 at Colorado, 4 at Cincinnati, 3 vs. Arizona
- Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez are both hitting the ball well. When those two are going well, they’re as dynamic as any pair of teammates in the league.
- They’re still pitching very well. Zack Greinke has been money all year, Clayton Kershaw seems completely back from his injury, and Kenley Jansen seems to have overcome his early season issues.
- There isn’t anyone in the league that doesn’t remember what they did in the second part of 2013 and that’s something they are capable of doing again. To get to their 2013 total of 92 wins, Los Angeles needs to play .604 baseball. Over the course of a full year, that pace works out to roughly 98 wins, which wouldn’t have been a crazy prediction for the Dodgers at the beginning of the year. They can certainly do that over a smaller sample size.
- I seriously doubt they’re at near this point, but just in case they are…even if the Dodgers completely concede that the Giants will win the NL West, the rest of the NL teams — with the possible exception of the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers — are really only a few games apart. With a pitching rotation that includes Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, and even resurgent pitchers Dan Haren and Josh Beckett, they easily have a rotation that could match up well in a playoff series, even after burning Kershaw or Greinke in the Wild Card game. So, shifting their focus to the Wild Card spots is not exactly the end of their championship hopes.
- Even with the return of Jose Abreu, the White Sox entered the series with the Dodgers as a .500 team. A National League team that needs to get something going can not lose a home series to a mediocre AL team.
- Don Mattingly, via Mark Saxon, ESPN Los Angeles: “Well, home, away, whatever, I don’t know that that’s got anything to do with it…It’s just being basically s—-. We’re just not that good.” Not exactly what you want to hear from your manager right now.
- If the Dodgers are going to make a run, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp will need to heat up. Over the last 10 games, Gonzalez is hitting .152 with 0 homers. Kemp is hitting .121 with 0 homers.
- If they’re looking to grab a Wild Card spot, the aforementioned bunch in the NL is a double-edged sword. Yes, even though they’re still a long way from the Giants, the bunched up pack means the Dodgers are well within the playoff race. But, the more teams that are bunched together, the more likely it is that someone will get hot. If some teams do get hot and the Dodgers aren’t included in that group, they’ll be in a very tough spot.
Third Place: Colorado Rockies
- Record: 28-31 (10.5 games back)
- Last 10: 1-9
- Upcoming: 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 4 vs. Atlanta, 3 at San Francisco
- Recent slump aside, the Rockies still have one of the best offenses in all of baseball, ranking in the Top-5 in nearly every major offensive category, which is not easy for an NL team. Especially in Denver, this is still a team that can make life difficult for opposing pitching rotations.
- Michael Cuddyer is heating up and Corey Dickerson is filling in nicely for Carlos Gonzalez.
- When you consider that he plays is home games at Coors Field, Jorge De La Rosa is a borderline All-Star, and LaTroy Hawkins doesn’t seem to be slowing down at this point.
- If they’re going to make a run, the fact that they’re going against both teams they’re chasing in the next 10 games is a good thing.
- It’s good that they’re opposing the teams their chasing but if they don’t at least win two of three from the Dodgers and probably sweep the Giants (in San Francisco, no less), the division title is as good as gone.
- Cargo, Nolan Arenado, and now Jordan Lyles are all on the disabled list. Not what you want to see when you’re in a free-fall.
- Justin Morneau, Charlie Blackmon, and Wilin Rosario have been slumping. In Denver, you need more than just Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki.
- When you’re facing a big deficit, a 2-7 road trip is a very bad thing, as is the inability to win consistently away from home. But getting swept by the Diamondbacks? In Colorado? That can’t happen. The Rockies need to dominate series like that if they’re going to get back into the race.
Fourth Place: San Diego Padres
- Record: 27-33 (12 games back)
- Last 10: 5-5
- Upcoming: 3 vs. Washington, 3 at Philadelphia, 3 at New York Mets
- They’re still a mile away from the Giants, but they’re inching closer to the rest of the NL West pack. They’re almost as close to the Dodgers in second as the last place Diamondbacks are to them. As we went over above, a crowded National League opens up a lot of potential Wild Card teams.
- The Padres pitching staff has held up well without him, but they’re slated to get Andrew Cashner back this weekend, which will only help matters.
- I wouldn’t say Ian Kennedy is back to his 2011 form, but he’s much closer to that than the disastrous 2012 and 2013 seasons.
- The duo of Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit really shortens their game. If the Padres are up after six or seven, they’re incredibly difficult to beat.
- They are closing in on the NL West pack, but that’s more because the Dodgers and Rockies are in a holding pattern. As the 5-5 record over the last 10 games shows, San Diego isn’t exactly on a tear.
- The Phillies and Mets aren’t exactly the most daunting of opponents, but when a sub-.500 team needs to turn things around fast, a six-game East Coast road trip — followed by two in Seattle before they’re back in San Diego — isn’t exactly what you want to see.
- The Padres are at or near the bottom of nearly every major offensive stat. The pitching is fine so if they were winning, maintaining a lead would be more doable. But to go on a long winning streak, a team needs to score runs, and that’s not something this team does well.
Fifth Place: Arizona Diamondbacks
- Record: 26-36 (14 games back)
- Last 10: 6-4
- Upcoming: 3 vs. Atlanta, 2 vs. Houston/2 at Houston, 3 at Los Angeles Dodgers
- The 26-36 record may not look like much. But since the end of April, Arizona is 17-14. They continue to play at that pace, they’ll finish the season right around .500, equaling their 2012 and 2013 totals. Not progress in the grand scheme of things, but big progress after a 9-22 start.
- After a down year in 2013, Miguel Montero seems to be returning to his 2010-2012 form.
- Along with Montero and stalwart Paul Goldschmidt, Martin Prado and Gerardo Parra have both been hitting well in recent weeks. If nothing else, they should be a tough offense to deal with, especially in Phoenix.
- His most recent outing in Colorado wasn’t great, but Josh Collmenter is really proving to be a stable force in the Diamondbacks rotation.
- We still don’t know when Mark Trumbo is coming back.
- Wade Miley hasn’t shown significant recovery from his 2013 sophomore slump.
- Sticking with the above wild card theme: The Dodgers are one-half game out of the last spot, trailing Atlanta, Miami, and Washington. Arizona is six games out. In and of itself, that’s not terrible, especially given their start. What is problematic is that nine teams are between the Diamondbacks and the second NL Wild Card spot. They’ll need to play even better than the post-April 17-14 and hope a lot of teams fade. If they don’t play the Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles 10-game stretch at about 7-3 or better, it’s officially time to start looking at 2015.